Egypt looks to monitor popular social media users

Internet users with at least 5,000 followers would be placed under the supervision of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation. (Shutterstock)
Updated 02 July 2018
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Egypt looks to monitor popular social media users

CAIRO: Freedom of expression may shrink further in Egypt where lawmakers have approved the first reading of a bill that would monitor popular social media users in the name of combating “false news.”
Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have become one of the last forums for public debate in Egypt since a November 2013 ban on all but police-approved gatherings.
In Egypt, more than 500 websites have so far been blocked, according to the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).
On June 10, parliament gave preliminary approval of the bill, pending a final reading and then ratification by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Under the bill, Internet users with at least 5,000 followers would be placed under the supervision of Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation.
The council, known for its criticism of foreign media and television programs accused of violating public morals, would oversee “every personal website, blog or electronic account of any person with 5,000 followers or more.”
It would also have the right to suspend or block such accounts if they “publish or broadcast false news” or information inciting “breaking the law, violence or hatred.”
“Every citizen will think 1,000 times before they can write a post in which they criticize the action of the government or the regime,” said Mohamed Abdelsalam, director of research at AFTE.
He urged social media companies to “reject the practices of the Egyptian government and stand on the side of the rights (of citizens) and civil society organizations.”

Cyber-crime

In another move in early June, lawmakers passed a law on cyber-crime that allows authorities to block any website or account that threatens Egypt’s national security or economy.
Those who administer such websites face jail time or fines.
Domestic and international human rights groups regularly criticize violations of freedom of expression by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s government.
El-Sisi, then defense minister, led the military’s July 2013 ouster of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi after mass protests against his rule.
Following waves of arrests in the wake of Mursi’s ouster, authorities have also detained activists and bloggers on charges of “publishing false news.”
Wael Abbas, a blogger and journalist, and Shadi Ghazali Harb, a youth leader during the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak, are among those arrested.
Lawyer Gamal Eid who heads the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information told AFP: “The problem is that the prosecution does not elaborate on the nature of the false news in the accusations.”
Khaled Elbalshy, a former press syndicate board member, said the new bill was “a continuation of the context of repressing the press and confiscating and silencing speech.”
“It’s an attempt to silence everyone who tries to speak, extending this control even to social media users,” Elbalshy said.
Several prominent activists, contacted by AFP, declined to comment.
In its defense, parliament’s media committee head Osama Heikal said that “electronic accounts have widespread access, more than some newspapers.”
Egypt, which ranks 161st out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), was “not the first country to go in that direction.”


India court reverses TikTok app restrictions

Updated 25 April 2019
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India court reverses TikTok app restrictions

  • It is already banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the US
  • The case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography

NEW DELHI: An Indian court has reversed a decision that ordered Google and Apple to take down Chinese-owned video app TikTok over the spread of pornographic material, local media said.
The controversial but wildly popular app allows users to upload and share short 15 second clips from their phones and claims to have 500 million users worldwide — more than 120 million of them in India.
It is already banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.
The Wednesday ruling by the Madras High Court in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state requires the popular platform to prevent “obscene videos” from being posted.
“(The court) warned if any controversial video violating its conditions were found uploaded using the app, it would be considered a contempt of court,” a report by the Press Trust of India agency said.
On April 16, India’s government demanded Google and Apple remove the service from its app stores, though the order did not stop those who had already downloaded the app from using it.
The case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography.
India’s government told the court on Wednesday that they had formed a committee to suggest ways to regulate apps like TikTok, PTI said.
TikTok told the court that they had removed around six million controversial videos from the platform since the order was announced banning new downloads last week.
The app hit the headlines in India earlier in April after a 19-year-old man was accidentally shot dead by a friend in Delhi as they posed with a pistol to make a video on the platform.
TikTok has become a major rival to Facebook, Instagram and other social network sites among teenaged smartphone users in the past year.
Bangladesh banned TikTok in February as part of a clampdown on Internet pornography.
The same month, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said a $5.7 million fine ordered against the company was the largest imposed in a child privacy investigation.
The social network failed to obtain parental consent from underage users as required by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, FTC officials said.